A Show Made for Musical Theatre Nerds
An all Canadian show, The Drowsy Chaperone, now on stage at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, has an interesting history. Originally written by their friends, it was performed for Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff as a wedding gift. After that, Bob Martin and Don McKellar reworked it, and The Drowsy Chaperone made its way to the Toronto Fringe Festival. There it caught the attention of David Mirvish. After a run in Toronto, it went to Broadway with the outstanding Sutton Foster starring as Janet. It was Canada’s claim to fame in NYC until the hit musical Come From Away went to Broadway a year ago.
I was fortunate enough to see it in Toronto when it went on tour, with Bob Martin himself playing the Man in Chair. Also in that cast was Georgia Engel (best known as Georgette, Ted’s girlfriend/wife on the old Mary Tyler Moore show) in the role of Mrs. Tottendale. It was a hilarious show, but this production in St. Jacobs earns even more laughs.
I was thrilled to see Drayton Entertainment add it to their roster, and I hope it shows up in more Drayton venues next season. It is one show where over-the-top is the way to go. This cast pushes it beyond the limit, enjoying themselves as zany stereotypes, and the audience on opening night loved it. Credit goes to director Max Reimer for letting them be extreme and making it work.
A musical within a play, this story has a couple of secondary plots and allows a musical theatre nerd to enjoy the show on many levels. An apparently lonely man sits in his chair in his tiny apartment, going through his old collection of record albums, putting a favourite musical on his old record player. He narrates the story, telling the audience about this particular 1928 musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, explaining bits of the plot and critiquing it between songs. He also fills us in on the actors playing the roles, giving us juicy tidbits of the celebrity gossip of the day. As the record plays, the characters he describes come to life right there in his living room. They crawl out of his Murphy bed and walk in through his fridge.
Mike Nadajewski is a natural as Man in Chair. We believe him when he says he is feeling a little anxious, which makes him sad to feel anxiety at his age, which in turn makes him feel blue. His cure? Listen to some old musicals on the record player. Nadajewski is delightful as he watches the musical unfold in his apartment, especially when he gets up and moves about the characters who are, of course, oblivious to his presence.
Jayme Armstrong excels as the bride, Janet Van De Graaff. The satirical song “I Don’t Wanna Show Off No More” provides a perfect opportunity for Armstrong to demonstrate her triple threat skills, along with her comedic talent. Kyle Golemba is the handsome bridegroom, Robert Martin. His blind-folded roller-skating scene is very entertaining. He is joined by best man George, played by Tim Porter. Golemba and Porter’s tap dance number “Cold Feets” is an absolute delight.
Gabrielle Jones is hilarious as the boozy (during prohibition, no less), drowsy chaperone. Her rousing anthem, “As We Stumble Along” with its rhyming bumble, fumble, plumble is funny as well as inspiring. Andrew Scanlon is hysterical as her suitor, the melodramatic Aldolpho.
The always funny Keith Savage as the Underling and Glynis Ranney as Mrs. Tottendale have the audience in stitches with their repeated spit-take scene. It’s also interesting to note that Nadajewski and Ranney are a real life couple; It’s nice they can entertain together in this crazy comedy.
Cliff Saunders is the animated cigar smoking producer, Mr. Feldzeig, with Jennifer Thiessen as his oh-so-smart girlfriend. Thiessen’s performance is reminiscent of Carol Burnett’s comedy. Aaron Walpole and Greg Pember are a pair of contrasting gangsters/chefs (yes, you read that right). Nadine Roden as Trix the Aviatrix belts out “I Do, I Do in the Sky”. Completing the cast as servants are Margaret Thompson and Luke Opdahl, with Opdahl doubling as the apartment superintendent.
This is a hilarious spoof of musical theatre, and I think anyone who writes reviews would especially enjoy it. I love the way Man in Chair critiques the show along the way. He comments on the spit-take numbers and tells us that the monkey motif is belaboured. It’s over-the-top silly and your sides will hurt from laughing. Don’t miss it!
The Drowsy Chaperone continues with eight shows a week until April 15 at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs. Tickets are available by calling Toll Free 1-855-372-9866 or Local Box Office 519-747-7788 or check www.draytonentertainment.com
Photo: Left: Mike Nadajewski as Man in Chair. Right: Jayme Armstrong as Janet, and Company. Left: Andrew Scanlon as Aldolpho and Gabrielle Jones as The Drowsy Chaperone. Photos by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.
The Drowsy Chaperon – 2018
Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison
Directed by Max Reimer
Choreographed by Robin Calvert
Musical Direction by Jeannie Wyse
Performed by Jayme Armstrong, Kyle Golemba, Gabrielle Jones, Mike Nadajewski, Luke Opdahl, Gregory Pember, Tim Porter, Glynis Ranney, Nadine Roden, Cliff Saunders, Keith Savage, Andrew Scanlon, Jennifer Thiessen, Margaret Thompson, Aaron Walpole.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs
March 28 to April 15, 2018
Reviewed by Mary Alderson